Every year 25 million pieces of luggage are lost on average, out of the 4.3 billion items that are checked in. This year the numbers are much higher.
Airline travel is One Hot Mess right now for travellers all around the globe this year. It is currently estimated that one flight out of 100 is delayed, and six pieces of luggage out of every 1,000 are lost.
But where do suitcases that are never again to be reunited with their owners actually end up?
Somewhere, and at some point, lost baggage is obviously found; however, if the 90-day period that each airline has at its disposal to return them to their owners (and avoid compensation) has passed, unclaimed luggage ends up in other hands.
According to social commerce website Slick Deals, there may be a number of reasons why luggage is lost. For example, in abandonment cases where the passenger is in such a hurry to leave the airport, they do not even go to the baggage claim area; in the event that the tag is damaged or 'disappears', the baggage remains at the airport where it was delivered or checked-in; or there could be errors in the label information, with the codes referring to other airports. For example, Las Vegas is referred to as 'LAS' and Los Angeles as 'LAX'.
In addition, the luggage may be accidentally loaded on the incorrect plane, especially when the trip includes several flights; or it might fall from the vehicle transporting it to the aircraft and onto the runway, unbeknownst to the operator.
Heathrow have invented a new game where you have to climb over loads of luggage in order find your own. pic.twitter.com/SgBpwMpQnH
— Christian Mitchell (@MitchellCMM) July 14, 2022
What Happens After the Luggage Fails to Reach the Correct Destination?
Statistics show that the companies responsible for airline luggage generally manage to recover 97% of lost or forgotten bags.
The remainder is usually sent to airline storage areas for five days. If this period elapses and the owners still have not picked up their items, they are then sent to the airline's central warehouse.
The 3% of bags that remain unclaimed are kept in the central warehouse for 60 to 90 days. This may not sound like a huge volume until you consider how many millions of people travel by plane every day.
Every year, 4.3 billion pieces of luggage are checked in worldwide. Twenty-five million of them are lost.
When 90 days pass without the owner having searched for their lost luggage, the airlines proceed to sell the item to third parties (companies) or at auctions after first opening them to ensure that they do not contain anything illegal or dangerous for public health.
If you're lucky enough to have lost your baggage in the United States, you may still have a chance of finding it.
As American YouTuber Safiya Nygaard assures her 9.49 million subscribers, "If a suitcase has been lost in the United States, it is most likely that it will end up at the Unclaimed Baggage Store located in Scottsboro, Alabama" - apparently the mecca for those wanting to buy things that have been lost by travellers. Obviously, at prices that are much lower than the original.
At the Unclaimed Baggage Store, you can also find everything you forgot on the plane and you never looked for, or at least you didn't look for it in time.
Another American YouTuber with 1.89 million subscribers, Hope Scope, actually went shopping at the Unclaimed Baggage store to buy lost luggage - finding abandoned accessories, expensive electronics, lost Louis Vuitton bags, and more - and then returned the contents to their original owners.
The Stores That Sell Your Stuff
Stores that sell the contents of lost luggage buy them from the airlines (after compensation has been given to the original owner). One-third is sold (usually the products that are in the best condition), one-third is recycled (the products that are in the worst condition), and the remaining third is donated to charities around the world.
Among the reasons for this practice of selling off lost baggage and its contents is to put the unclaimed items to good use rather than having them all end up in landfill.
The list of lost baggage contents includes all kinds of clothing (50,000 items each month), shoes, books, skateboards, musical instruments, jewellery, glasses, electronics, wedding dresses, dolls, collectables - and anything else you can imagine someone might have in their luggage - as well as the actual baggage itself.
The Auctions That 'Give Away' Your Belongings
In the USA, Canada, Great Britain and India, there are auctions where those in the know can go and bid on a suitcase without knowing its contents.
Auctions are also held at online marketplace GovDeals since interested parties can't open the suitcases before deciding how much they'll pay to make them theirs anyway.
Jumping on the trend, British YouTuber Roxi recently bought a suitcase at auction for 20 pounds (€23.74). Money well spent, according to Roxi, after receiving and opening the suitcase, displaying its contents to her 4.56 million subscribers.
However, others are not so lucky.
In one record transaction, a man actually paid $10,000 to buy five lost suitcases from Canada – a price (as he later discovered upon opening the suitcases and emptying the contents) that was not justified.
In an episode of reality show 'Lost & Sold', which follows the journey of a group of auction hunters, one man paid $270 for an unclaimed suitcase, only to end up with a big bag of alpaca hair.
Let the buyer beware!
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